More than 1,000 part-time and grant-funded New Haven Public Schools employees received word from the city’s Board of Education last Friday that at the end of this week they will be out of a job — at least for the moment.
Speaking to the public after a private Board of Education meeting on Monday to discuss the 1,100 layoffs, Superintendent of New Haven Public Schools Carol Birks said that she and her staff would work with school principles, reexamine the positions and rehire some of the dismissed employees, possibly to new roles. According to Mayor Toni Harp, the letters were not sent to classroom teachers.
The school board’s closed-door session lasted a full two hours, but afterward Birks did little to fill in the specifics of the decision. Still, she did offer an explanation of the board’s rationale.
“Generally, most districts tell employees who work part-time at the beginning of the school year that they work for a period of time,” Birks said after the meeting. “We didn’t do that. We didn’t provide that notification up front, so we wanted to make sure people understood that, at the end of the year, that part-time assignment would end.”
The layoffs come at a moment when the seven-member Board of Education is struggling to overcome a significant budgetary shortfall. After years of flat funding, school system finds itself in a nearly $20 million hole for the upcoming fiscal year. Friday’s layoff notice said that the staff cuts, along with reductions in spending on supplies and contracted services, are part of efforts to balance the budget.
According to a New Haven Independent poll, 43.01 percent of the more than 600 respondents said that the school board should not eliminate the 1,100 positions, while just over 33 percent approved of the layoffs.
During the public portion of the June 25 Board of Education meeting, parents in attendance emphasized the importance of transparency to school board members and urged parents across the district to stay positive and involved in school matters.
“Let’s come together parents, be visible, be vocal, stay in tune,” said Citywide Parent Team President Krystal Augustine. “Don’t get discouraged by whatever [the school board] can do … We are still going to be here and still do right by our children and the children in the community.”
This is not the first step the school board has taken to try to find its fiscal footing. In May, the school board voted to close down three New Haven schools: the New Horizons School for Higher Achievement, the New Light High School and Cortland V.R. Creed Health and Sports Sciences School. The shutdowns are expected to save the district roughly $4.5 million.
In a presentation on the school district’s financial state at Monday’s meeting, Birks said she is focusing on realigning the staffing model, evaluating consolidation of school programs and lowering energy costs.
“We’re going to be making more difficult decisions in the future,” President of the Board Darnell Goldson said at Monday’s meeting. “It will include probably some additional staff movements and possibly even some school consolidations, so I want to be honest with you those things are on the table.”
New Haven Board of Education meetings are held the second and fourth Mondays of each month.